Scarcely rare

In the linguistic shorthand of Eve-Online some minerals are said to be "rare."  The rarer mineral is the scarcer one in market terms:  they are more expensive than the less scarce ones (fn1).  Yet minerals are much less rare than one might suppose:  I know where they are, I know how to extract them, and yes, I can even arrange the logistics.    But I don't do it myself.  Why?

Minerals in Eve-Onine are scarce for lack of another in-game resource which can be indeed quite rare in some areas:

security. 

The structures that players use to manage security in Eve-Online can be substantial. 

MMOG experiences in general seem to revolve around metering in-game resources out to the players for an intended (game design) effect.  The simplest PvE (Player-versus-Environment) pattern might be:

A.)  Kill Z and 0.1% of the time it "drops" loot that is a rare item. 

Kill enough of Z and the rare item will eventually show up - the limiting factor is the player's time.   This pattern gets extended in PvE by layering on group gating elements, such as:

B.)    Limit the number of times/places Z is available.  Then players need to organize among themselves to manage distribution of the rare loot among themselves -(queues, sharing, lottery).

Add PvP (Player-versus-Player) then the groups of players might fight over who gets access to the source of that resource (dungeon/monster etc).  Thow in bigger Z's, then:

C.) Require groups of players to wrest loot from Z.  Groups of players become a logistic resource that needs to be marshalled and maintained and can be scarce at times.

To my view, Eve Online extends the pattern of (C.) insisting that the organization of players and their ability to access regions is the scarce resource.  It differs from (C.) in that the ostensible resources sought (minerals) are relatively abundant and would be easily obtainable were it not for other requirements.  The Eve-Online variation of the problem becomes:

X.)  Do I have enough logistical support ("haulers", tech, ships, etc) to make doing so cost-effective.  It also includes organizational overhead: getting enough people to show up at the right place on time.

Y.) Do I have enough player provided security in place to protect my operation to extract that ore.

I have simplified away here two important details.  First, the "rare" minerals are not uniformly distributed across the Eve Online universe (see this display).  The numbered axis corresponds to the Concord (in-game police) security for a band of regions.  The effect of this is to force trade.  The second simplification is that (Y.) above refers to areas where players need to provide their own security (< 0.5 on the axis).

Two weeks ago I wrote about how the control of territory and managing its security is a central feature in the game for large player groups called alliances in Eve-Online:

The bread and butter of these alliances is the territory they control: territory forms the first rung of the economic system that makes the game possible (or enjoyable) for its members.  From territory comes the minerals to fuel factories to build ships to fight wars.

Alliances reside in 1/3 or so of the 5000 "plantary systems" (e.g. political map) that comprise the Eve Online universe.  Their territory covers locations where some of the most valuable mineral ore can be found.  In the lingo, alliances live in the "0.0 space."  Thus, one narrow view of the alliance system in Eve-Online is as an economic and security arrangement to protect and support mining operations in those areas.

A careful reader of the NBSI thread will have noted that alliances employ (more or less well) multiple layers of defense to protect their territory:

1.) there are those trying to protect the perimeter ("gate camping")

2.) there are those roaming around (or manning scout points) looking for those who slipped through.

3.) there is everyone else, some percentage of which will muster at any moment should an alarm be raised.

An industrial sized mining operation might be composed of a dozen or more players involved in three capacities:  mining, hauling, and security.  "Hauling" is the movement of minerals from a site to a station that can be located some distance away.  Large operations pose a set of vulnerabilities for players:  plenty of expensive ships out in the open with few guns.

Within core alliance areas security at a mining site may be limited to NPC guard duty (periodic drop-ins by Non-Player Character aggressors, "rats") that can be easily managed.   Mining in volatile regions (e.g. "lo-sec" space - filled with pirates, and contested areas - other disputing alliances) is a trickier business.

One advantage of alliances is that much of the security cost of an operation within its borders is amortized by the whole organization (see 1.-3. above).  Without it, the direct cost of security at an operation site can be significant.  As a for instance, operations where a beefed mining security extends well beyond the site to a convoy route is not unheard of (to guard against pirates molesting haulers) .  Whether directly or indirectly, all those guns have to be paid for.  The alliance system helps substantially to defray those expenses by limiting their need.

Yet, I'd guess most of the mining in Eve-Online is retail:  a couple of guys with perhaps an "alt" (alternative character) to help out.  A battleship with half its gun complement swapped out for mining gear would be adequate against NPCs.  If the worry is PvP threats (e.g. pirates, alliances), however, much more would be needed. 

While industrial scale mining is much more efficient (lucrative per capita) than retail it requires a good handle on (X.) and (Y.) and is best managed by larger player structures.  The alliance system in Eve-Online can thus be seen as a risk mitigation device.  As such it exists as a response to the actions of other players.

My, oh my.  Without PvP would there ever be a need for an alliance system?

----------------------------------------------------------

fn1.  An overview of the mineral market in EVE Online.    Dr.EyjoG | 2007.09.03 


Comments on Scarcely rare:

dmx says:

There are quite a lot of internal structuring of Alliance economies, from "libertarian" (focused on individual wealth making and armament) to "communist" (player surrenders wealth and mining time in return for free ships) and all points in between.

Often Alliances/Corps will generally allow its members a latitude of 'carebearing' with a base tax , maybe 10-30% to cover infrastructure (Player Owned Station moon coverage, Capital ship subsidies, Welfare programs , etc), and will top this up with 'corp mining ops' for big projects like Supercapital construction and the like.

One interesting thing I've seen, is that many alliances, under severe stress from invasion will resort to a 100% taxation regime to, seemingly, maximise war-chest funds and encourage the more capitalist minded members to pick up a gun and join the front line.

This DOES however seem to backfire wildly however, as the corp churns thru its strategic reserves of ships (if it has them at all), and players left financially destitute after the war, leading to what some have refered to as the "failure cascade" when players and corps leave wholesale for empire to try and rebuild and tend wounds, leaving a profoundly injured alliance to succumb to the ravages of war (occasionally hastened by the strategic sabotage of a well placed secret agent)

Whats interesting is where the laffer curve allegedly kicks in. On the surface, this phenomenon would seem to be a validation of the idea, but this doesn't seem to be right, as people in 'real' economies tend to be unable to pick up and leave. (Perhaps it speaks instead to the phenomenon of unpaid soldiers going AWOL or engaging in mutiny/revolt in third world armies)

But eve does allow much scope in its large alliances to observe how various financial regulation schemes affect player well-being and 'national' goals.

What I'd love to see would be the option of a 'graduated' taxation on incomes rather than the flat rate the system offers. Would it be appealing to newbies and poorer 'PVPers' whilst repelling the wealthier players, or would the options for income redistribution build an Alliance with less poverty pockets. Its a great little economic sandbox.

Posted Sep 17, 2007 6:32:06 AM | link

dmx says:

Also, More eve stories:

http://www.shacknews.com/featuredarticle.x?id=564
(This one on the Russian "Red Alliance" and it's culture)

Posted Sep 17, 2007 6:59:39 AM | link

jeremy says:

this is an interesting system really. economic scarcity as i understand it doesn't really have any limits. so the fact that minerals are in abundance but secure extraction of minerals is not means that minerals become scarce. the system acts to make players work together, one of the forever-desired goals. nice design.

Posted Sep 17, 2007 8:00:15 AM | link

magicback (Frank) says:

Wow, reading the OP, I had images of Medieval Europe, the Wild West, the Age of Colonization, the game Risk, and so forth flashing in my brain.

Rather than saying "risk mitigation", perhaps the turn of the phrase "security enhancement".

What happens if there was a hegemony, an overpowering empire, a Pax Eve?

Does 0.0 space serves as a contrast to 1.0 space or is it the other way around?

Posted Sep 17, 2007 1:20:18 PM | link

dmx says:

"What happens if there was a hegemony, an overpowering empire, a Pax Eve?"

Thats probably the grand fear that motivates why some folk get so passionate about the 'great war'. Both the RSF(Reds, Goons, Tau Ceti) & BOB(&Friends) are both entirely capable of pulling off a complete 0.0 takeover, if not for the factor of the other side. BOB in particular are exceptionally talented, but the presence of the other acts as a stalemating factor.

But I've concluded that this isn't going to happen. As both sides extend, they hit logistical limits , partly exasperated by the fact that putting in subservient renters (Sometimes known as Pets, although some find the term mildly offensive) often backfires due to being 'weak' targets for easy conquest by the other side..

This is possibly shown by the failure of the Goons attempts at building an expansive free trade zone in the south.

The theory of the FTZ was that a corp/alliance would agree to a shared set of standings (for safety/defense reasons), and pay a small fee to contribute to logistics (POS fuel mainly, to keep the stations open) , and where permitted to go hog wild.

It was largely celebrated by the eve community, War rivalries not withstanding, but unfortunately collapsed under the BOB onslaught. Furthermore a large number of RMT traders where caught by the goons and russians , and realising the deep upset RMT seems to cause in eve, it became overly expensive trying to hunt down and kill RMTers while trying to maintain a solid defense. So the scheme collapsed.

The theory however was interesting. Remedial, the CEO (Who ended up running off with the Goons tax, alas) theorised that the best defense was a strong economy. And noteing the smooth interactions between the Russian, French and Goon economys, all largely free market (I think) , figured the system worked well to be extended. Retrospectively the idea was a failure, but not because it cause any poverty for the Goons or friends, but ultimately the low tax regime and expensive to maintain open empire became a
financially crippling enterprise in the face of war. I think the current strategy is back to the 'pet' strategy, but with a focus on PVP corps.

Now what would happen IF one of the two managed to overpower Eve? I think it'd be the end of the game, personally. The reason I say that , is that Capital ships require low-sec (The game won't let carriers and the like into high security empire) , and the now almost mandatory supercapitals (Motherships and Titans) can only be built in Player Sovereignty systems at a POS tower. If you have a titan or two , you can be pretty damn mean on the battlefield. Field a few titans and a handful of motherships, and your near on unstoppable.

So a "Pax EVE" 0.0 corp would have complete control over the supercap trade, and likely a fairly tight grip on the captital trade as well. That would be pretty much game over for any opponent.

The game in fact did come rather close to this previous a recent-ish patch that nerfed the titan, as the RSF was close to succumbed by the BOB team, largely due to the fact the Titan had the ability to kill an entire fleet with a button press, and no one in the game had any clear idea how to kill a competently flown one without some degree of metagaming (The previous two where killed by waiting till the pilot logged off, then attacking the ship before the agression timer ran out. Hardly a satisfying 'battle' for either side), and it made the game plain un-fun for both sides. The change made it possible to tackle a titan and removed its ability to kill fleets remotely (previously, one could send in a newbie frigate, and the titan had the ability to use that frigate as a proxy for firing its weapon).

I suspect on some level CCP did this on purpose, as it was clear the game was in a degree of trouble over this mechanic. People where leaving the ga en-masse, and more to the point, Pax-Eve was indeed around the corner.

I'll further that speculation by noting that CCP also added the Tiered sovereignty system, thats effectively grinded the war to a stalemate (Imho). Its now *very* hard to take a system off a defender who's achieved Lev 4 sov. Which is not to say it won't/can't happen, but its hard to say whether the war will reach a 'glorious'/'terrible' conclusion, or whether the respective sides will just grind to a poverty induced truce. Both sides certainly have some fight left in them, and after a large losing streak for BOB (Post the Goons large losing streak) , they seem to of recently come out swinging, smacking the Goons right back in the nose again.

Not sure I understand the 0.0 contrasts 1.0 question. Are you being poetic?

Posted Sep 17, 2007 6:49:24 PM | link

Erillion says:

If you want to know what happens when one power controls 0.0 space, look no further than the EVE China server. It busted. Big time. Peak concurrent users something around 3000, as compared to 35000 on the main server.

At least 50 % of the player base has left already, with numbers still dropping.

One group conquered and controlled 0.0 space with the knowledge gained from the main Tranquility server. Its up to you to decide if the rumours are true, that this group is a ISK-for-real-world-cash group (that scared away its own customers).

Have fun

Posted Sep 18, 2007 9:36:07 AM | link

dmx says:

Yeah. I've heard that story too. I wonder if its what scared CCP on drastic action to try and reduce one side or the other of becoming the kings of all 0.0

I'm inclined to suspect that the isk-for-cash thing is more based on a stereotype of Chinese gamers. Most (actually all) of the Chinese gamers I know are all into the same thing as me. pew pew and the noble pursuit of space pranks. In fact the only admitted isk for money guy I ever met was an American. Hard times I guess.

Posted Sep 18, 2007 11:25:32 PM | link

greglas says:

1) Would any one faction actually want a Pax Eve in 0.0 space? That's a genuine question -- I realize there's a struggle for dominance in that space organized around a zero-sum approach, but if it were achieved, wouldn't that make things profoundly unexciting for the victor?

2) I'm getting the sense that there are no game-mechanical elements in Eve designed to make complete domination of 0.0 space by any given faction impossible? Is that right? (If so, that's much different than most PvP design, yes?)

Posted Sep 19, 2007 12:52:47 AM | link

Erillion says:

Yes, a Pax EVE is desirable for one superpower. It would rent out 0.0 space to people (read = carebears) paying for it. Having no pirates and rivals out there will make complex farming, exploration, NPC pirate ratting and high end mineral mining easy and profitable.

Meanwhile the superpowers PvP player base will still get its dose of fighting from

a) manning the gate camps into 0.0 space
b) do the occasional patrol or raider response
c) go hunting in low sec (0.4 to 0.1 security)
d) declare war on hapless empire alliances and blackmail them, else you will kill all their POS (player owned moon stations) with your (super) capital fleet

And all this is financed by payments from the renters, so you dont have to lift a finger yourself (no need to mine or manufacture or haul or trade, unless you want to). You can PvP 100 % of the time.

Have fun

Posted Sep 19, 2007 5:33:40 AM | link

Erillion says:

>>> 2) I'm getting the sense that there are no game-mechanical elements in Eve designed to make complete domination of 0.0 space by any given faction impossible? Is that right? (If so, that's much different than most PvP design, yes?) >>>>

Correct - CCP has NOT put into place showstoppers. One superpower - sufficiently large and capable in PvP and diplomacy COULD in theory dominate all of 0.0 space and CCP would not lift a finger.

However, CCP recently made changes to make it HARDER (sovereignty system, Supercapital ships being hit by nerf bat).

Have fun

Posted Sep 19, 2007 5:37:14 AM | link

Ace Albion says:

All the Eve players I know complain of "too many blues" when they get settled and secure in their areas, so they move and look for challenges/fights. I expect the same is true of the big alliances, or at least the attack dogs of their heavy PvP corporations.

Posted Sep 19, 2007 6:06:43 AM | link

dmx says:

The other limiting factor is one of economics. To maintain sovereignty in a system, you need to have more moons covered with POS's of the largest size (Player owned stations) than any other alliance. In a 40 moon system, thats a lot of POS's (Granted only 10 moons might be claimed, but in a full siege, an alliance might scurry to cover all of them) . A single POS "deathstar" can cost upwards of a billion dollars to put in, and then consume similar amounts of money monthly to fuel.

Now multiply that by hundreds of station systems, then thousands more to maintain lv4 system sov.

Your logistics guys would be in pain.

The flip side of this, is that if a 0.0 team DID pull this off, they'd be really really hard to dislodge now, if they achieved full 0.0 LV3/4 sov.

Posted Sep 19, 2007 7:23:01 PM | link

dmx says:

Also, not sure about BOB , but I think the Goons have pretty much decided they don't want all of 0.0, because it'd take the whole team working on logistics, and that would be boring as hell.

It certainly wouldn't be 100% pvp anymore. That's more the pirates life.

Posted Sep 19, 2007 7:24:42 PM | link

RedWolf says:

I have to say that although EVE seems to be incredibly boring, time-consuming and very very dated, reading about its player politics is always interesting. If only CCP would update the client and game mechanics so that they would appeal to a broader audience, I'm sure EVE could be far more successful that it is now.

Posted Sep 20, 2007 10:55:14 AM | link

The Grog says:

Other PvP games have had a Pax develop on their servers. From what I heard, it was a somewhat common development in Shadowbane.

So far as I remember, a Pax pretty much uniformly crushed gameplay in all forms of PvP. Nobody to fight, the PvPers left. Which hurt the economy. With the economy tanking, some mostly PvE/part PvP players left and some played less. Which hurt PvP action more. The servers with a Pax just got *boring*, and while in the real world boring is good these aren't real worlds.

I imagine eventually population loss and inertia would cause the Pax to start to crumble, which could have all sorts of interesting effects, but most servers lost too much population before the Pax on it weakened. It's just too much easier to leave a MMO server or game than in real life to have much of a population left by the time a pax would be vulnerable to barbarian hordes or civil insurection.

On the other hand, sometimes truly epic things happen with free-PvP and Pax-locked servers are not an exception. Apparently on one server in Shadowbane, the Pax there left one enemy guild on an island somewhere to kick around and let their PvP army group have some fun. After some time, said PvP army got to know their opposition/chey toy, decided that they liked said opponents better than their own leadership, and promptly revolted.

I'd imagine that one of the big points in open PvP MMOs is to have devs interfere specifically to weaken potential Pax groups and to keep one that formed in turmoil. I mean, it shouldn't take that much effort to create drama and conflict. Perhaps by creating or recruiting a few inside agents. I'm sure you could find people in any large group that would be amenable to being turned into double agents for the development team.

Posted Sep 21, 2007 1:24:29 AM | link

greglas says:

That's interesting. But I imagine the Pax group would be pretty annoyed if they knew the devs were plotting against them. Otoh, devs could "impartially" build in something structural, like a powerful PvE effect that only kicked in when PvP play starting fading from the game -- e.g. some kind of storm or drag effect that made travel/ communication/ coordination across larger spaces more difficult...

Posted Sep 21, 2007 10:49:13 AM | link

Dirt McGirt says:

I think Eve has had quite enough dev interference, thank you very much.

Posted Sep 21, 2007 11:04:18 PM | link

Aeco says:

Imo, the EVE dev's have greatly limited the potential for a detrimental pax by the changes to static complexes.

The isk generated in the best of them greatly increased the return to holding specific systems to such a degree you almost had a "tipping point" situation. Control of the complex systems was all important. Today, it is moderately better but I'd like to see it pushed further.

Dev's don't need to directly interfere with the politics, but can easily change the playing field in favor of invaders or defenders to get more or less "pax" if they so choose.

I think the experience with Bob probably put anchorable station and gate guns on the back burner.

I dont know if CCP is yet sensitive to the pax margin in terms of subscriber numbers, but they certainly can control its extent indirectly.

Posted Sep 23, 2007 5:33:43 PM | link

dmx says:

"Imo, the EVE dev's have greatly limited the potential for a detrimental pax by the changes to static complexes."

The static complexes probably contributed under 5-10% of the larger alliances incomes.

The major change was the Titan nerf, and changes to sov.

Removing the static complexes just removed the fun set-piece battles that used to happen over them, which kinda sucks now.

Best fun in the game I've had was the big daily battle over the UTKS complex. :(

Posted Sep 25, 2007 11:29:11 AM | link

dmx says:

Actually I'll go further. The decline in the smaller space holding alliance was probably from that.

The big guys never needed the complexes. The smaller guys where the ones dependant on it. I saw quite a few pack up and leave post that patch, which was kinda sad.

Posted Sep 25, 2007 11:30:54 AM | link

Erillion says:

>>> Removing the static complexes just removed the fun set-piece battles that used to happen over them, which kinda sucks now.>>>

I did not think that fighting over static complexes was fun. It was a grueling grind and done purely to generate cash for the alliance. Did it for 6 months against the raiding gangs of the Reds. One hour before and after downtime you stand guard over a complex (D-F in my case).

It may be fun the first one, two, ten times. After that its necessary WORK. To generate cash to keep your friends, corp and alliance afloat. To finance outposts so you can put a permanent mark on the game by deploying one or more of these behemoths. And it will stay there, long after you left the game. Which is a kinda nice feeling.

Have fun

Posted Oct 9, 2007 10:39:34 AM | link

Erillion says:

I find the unpredictability and diversity of the new exploration system better

http://www.d-nightmare.de/exploration/OGDB/database.php

You never known which of the 749+ encounters you will find. And if you are not prepared, the encounter will chew you up and spit you out.

Posted Oct 9, 2007 10:42:19 AM | link

Dyslexic Q-Thief says:

Re: Shadowbane:

It's interesting that the Chinese EVE server that had Pax. Over here in SB, the Pax guild "HoD" is also Chinese. Perhaps it's a culture thing.

Another interesting thing is that HoD used to have it's own pacific rim server, but it was closed. Now the wander from server to server. Allegedly, they have said that they are actually attempting to kill servers as a monument to themselves. And they've succeeded on some.

There's a solution to Paxes though: winning. One of the most PvP heavy games I know, Travian, allows construction of a "Wonder" after a certain point. When a level 100 Wonder is built, the server ends, with the builder as the winner. Then the server is completely reset and it starts anew at day 1.

Posted Oct 27, 2007 12:00:59 PM | link

Maeve says:

Good morning. The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.
I am from South and , too, and now am writing in English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "From frankfurt, american airlines offers discount airfares and cheap airline tickets to the usa all year round."

With best wishes :P, Maeve.

Posted Apr 3, 2009 9:58:13 PM | link